Homeowner gets proper deed to house after I-Team steps in

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A homeowner says a seller tricked him using a real estate scheme known as ''deed shifting.'' (WLS)

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
It's a warning for anyone who may be buying a home. One man discovered that a house he paid for, was never really in his name, meaning his home could have been taken from him at any time. Now that homeowner is thanking the I-Team.

Lauren Lake recently remodeled the inside of his home in the city's Riverdale neighborhood, but there was something missing.

"Every day that I was working on the home that was my fear, that one day it would be swept from under my feet," he said.

In July, the I-Team reported that he had discovered that the home he thought was his, was not in his name. The Cook County Recorder of Deeds said Lake is a victim of what's known as "deed shifting."

Lake bought the home under a rent-to-own program through Ralph Schrader.

"It is individuals who are in many ways the most vulnerable individuals who cannot go to a traditional bank and get the financing, are looking to take advantage of what Schrader is offering," said Mario Reed, Cook Co. Recorder of Deeds Office.

But the recorder of deeds office says after the transaction, Schrader shifted the deed from his personal name to his company, Chicagoland Rent To Own Homes before Lake could record his deed, making Lake's deed worthless.
That gave Schrader the ability to sell the home again or take a mortgage out on the property. Now, the recorder of deeds office says Schrader has properly registered that deed.

"Overjoyed, I can't explain it after coming through ups and downs and roller coasters," Lake said.

When we asked Schrader about the allegations in July, he ran away and slammed the door. Schrader did say it was an oversight and that he would correct it.

"Did you scam him?" Jason Knowles asked.

"No!" Schrader said.

"So who owns the home right now, you or him?" Knowles said.

"He does," Schrader said in July.

And a few months earlier, Schrader also ran when Knowles confronted him about a separate case - a guilty plea to a charge of theft by deception; he was accused of renting out a home that wasn't his.

The I-Team reached out to Schrader again about the developments in Lake's case. He acknowledged that the deed is now in Lake's name but said via text that "there never was a problem" and the recorder of deeds office "lied for political publicity."

"I think you guys made an extraordinary impact," Lake said. "Once again, I would like to thank you Mr. Knowles and the I-Team for a quick response and your dedication to the story. This is a good outcome."

The recorder of deeds office stands behind its previous allegations against Schrader and says no one at that office lied.

If you if you're buying a home directly through an owner, like Lake did, you should hire an attorney and quickly register your deed.
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